Monday, December 28, 2009

Whitty Whatch: Avatar, Patriotism and a Three-Star Negative Review

Avatar (2009 film)Image via Wikipedia
Yet another substandard review by Whitty (readable in its entirety here).

Whitty starts off his review of Avatar by being surprisingly honest, something a lot of critics have been trying to avoid. He rather bluntly points out that while the movie isn’t a steaming pile of crap, neither is it a groundbreaking work of cinematic history (apart from the budget, that is). Of course, that is all there really is to say about the film. But Whitty needs to fill more space in order to justify a whole-page review in the Friday Entertainment Section. So, needless to say, he starts spinning that classic Whitty magic.

One of Whitty's main complaints is that Avatar's anti-war theme makes some references that relate to our own country's eight-year Iraqi war. He appears upset that Cameron would dare make comparisons between Avatar's corporation-backed-military preemptively invading Pandora for mineral profits, and America's Halibuton & Blackwater-backed-military preemptively invading Iraq for oil profits. No, Whitty's right, there's hardly a real comparison there at all.

But just coming out and saying that he disagrees with the film’s political message won’t do. So instead he claims that the film “gets confused in its politics. He whines about the film’s Na’vi being portrayed in “the image of the Native American as a peaceful eco-warrior,” totally overlooking the fact that the U.S. government did indeed use its military might to practically wipe out the Native Americans for their land and mineral rights. More specifically, he fears that mixing the imagery of Native Americans with current military jargon like “Shock and Awe” and “Daisy Cutters” somehow makes America’s eight-year debacle in Iraq seem less legitimate.

So Whitty is a supporter of the Iraqi war. Fair enough. He is entitled to his political opinion. But instead of just saying so, he argues that the film is “poisoned” by Cameron’s “clumsy attempts” to modernize the classic tale of Corporate Greed vs. Indigenous Natives (Here’s a little hint for you Whitty: nations have been doing the same thing long before the stars and stripes. It isn’t always about us, you know.). It can’t be that he and Cameron disagree; it has to be that Whitty is right and Cameron is “confused” and naïve. He even goes as far as to insinuate that the film is nothing more than a terrorist recruitment brochure that should “have a huge opening weekend in Basra.”

Ironically, Whitty spends half of the review criticizing Avatar for being morally naive, and the other half for attempting to be morally relevant, simply because he doesn't agree with the political viewpoint of the director. He accuses the film’s anti-corporate/militaristic message of being “a misread mix of Rousseau and Chomsky,” making it readily apparent that he hasn’t read much of either.

Surprisingly, Whitty doesn’t make any glaring factual errors this round. The closest he gets is implying that Avatar’s plot is reminiscent of the Star Trek episode The Menagerie, a dubious and somewhat perplexing claim. I guess he felt that all sci-fi originates from Star Trek. He wouldn’t be the first to share that delusion. But he does use the sickening copout critic phrase Popcorn Movie, although he upgrades it to “Popcorn Epic” in Cameron’s honor. And I really fail to see what Cameron's multiple marriages have to do with his political views towards feminism. Then again, if you are determined to give a Three-Star bad review, I guess it helps to take pot-shots at the director's personal life instead of his film.

That’s right, you heard correctly. Whitty spends most of his lengthy review listing the numerous errors and flaws with the film, and then feels fit to award it Three out of Four stars anyway. So, in Whitty’s own words: the film Avatar contains “half-baked ideas,” “clumsy dialogue,” “adolescent philosophy,” and “sketchy characterization.” Sure sounds like a Three Star film to me.

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What I Learned From Avatar

  • Humans will always be driven to destroy all that is beautiful and natural.
  • Corporations are evil and untrustworthy.
  • No matter what evil deeds are perpetrated by corporations, the CEO will always escape any penalties.
  • God is the Internet, Heaven is one giant Server, and we are all Plug & Play data ports.
  • The best belief system is the kind that can be proven through scientific method.
  • 3D makes everything better.
  • The Tribe Leader’s young warrior son will always come off as a royal prick until you get a chance to bond with him in the third act.
  • It is okay to kill marines if they are private contractors and not on the government payroll.
  • A planet-wide rainforest ecosystem will contain only six or seven distinct animals.
  • Michelle Rodriguez is contractually obligated to die in everything she stars in.
  • When felling a tree measuring over a mile high, not one person is going to think of saying “Timber.”
  • Floating mountains can have waterfalls despite having no source for the water to come from.
  • Its okay to have a completely predictable storyline if it costs half a billion dollars and looks really cool.
  • Superstitious shamanistic races are more likely to deal with foreign interlopers who show up magically possessing bodies built to resemble their own.
  • The idealistic alien race is built like an impossibly thin ten-foot-tall runway model .
  • Destroying your girlfriend’s home and killing her father will break up your relationship, but if you show up later with a totally hot ride, she’ll take you back in a heartbeat.
  • Ten years of development, and the most creative name that James Cameron can think of for his film’s fictional rare mineral is Unobtainium.
  • Even worse, the movie poster tagline he could come up with was Believe It, Or Not.
  • People will pay to see anything in 3D.

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Avatar Review: Is "Not Bad" Good Enough?

Is “Not Bad” good enough?

That’s really the question when it comes to assessing the quality of Avatar, James Cameron’s first film in over a decade. His first major theatrical release since Titanic, it has been obvious for a long time that Cameron and the studios had every intention of making Avatar as much of a blockbuster epic as its Oscar-winning Leonardo DiCaprio-starring predecessor.

After two successful weekends in the theater, it is now safe to say that it isn’t the bomb some might have feared or hoped for. This was actually evident before the first box office receipts were in, when the short-lived review embargo (usually the first clue that the film is a potential flop) was broken by film critics eager to share their mutual surprise that the film wasn’t this decade’s Ishtar or Heaven’s Gate. Since then there has been a virtual love-fest between the media and the studios, and a $75+ million opening weekend despite a blizzard-hampered East Coast has dispelled any fears that the audiences wouldn’t bite. The mutual consensus: It isn’t bad.

But, again; does Not Bad = Good?

Avatar’s notoriously gargantuan $400+ Million budget actually delivers on its overall promise of over-the-top 3D and special effects. Over half of the film is dominated by advanced CGI-rendered characters, animals and Day-Glo jungle environments. And yes, they are quite amazing. Seen in 3D or 2D, you can see where all the money went. But when it comes to justifying the amount spent, the lines of reason and good taste begin to blur.

The main chorus being sung by the film’s promoters and apologist film critics (speaking of blurred boundaries) is that these are the most realistic CGI rendered characters you will ever see. To paraphrase one of many identical review/interview/commercial spots, the realism invoked by these realistic animated characters is so overwhelming that you will actually come to believe that they are real beings.

This, of course, is a load of crap.

As impressive as these computer generated characters are, there is no point during the film that any rational adult will find themselves wondering how they managed to make the Navi look so real, because they don’t look real; they look like what they are, extremely impressive computer-generated characters. Now, children in the audience might feel differently, but kids aren’t an especially discerning audience. Decades ago, millions of underage film-goers were more than willing to believe that a bunch of midgets in fur suits running around the screen in Return of the Jedi were actually a race of heavily-merchandised half-pint Wookies.

Its called the Suspension of Disbelief, an integral part of the movie-going experience that is not necessarily increased exponentially with the amount of money spent on the effects budget.

As much as the propaganda-heavy news reports and film critic reviews would like you to believe that special effects are what make characters endearing, the truth of the matter is that screenplay and actor performance easily trump that list. In the case of Avatar, the performances are only as good as the special effects and script allows them to be. Considering the weak story presented behind the 3D CGI spectacle, this leaves them all at about half-mast.

The lack of a decent script is almost understandable; when you are completely focused on delivering groundbreaking visuals worthy of a half-billion price tag, you’re going to want to keep your script as lean and simple as possible. And simple it is. Anyone who has ever seen Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai or Enemy Mine already knows this story (aka Plot #17) inside and out: Main Character battles Good Group on behalf of Evil Group, but eventually indentifies with Good Group and helps them defeat Evil Group. Roll credits.

But again, apologists are eager to claim that the amazingly expensive special effects more than justify the extremely light and simplistic screenplay. After all, the nearly half-billion-dollar special effects made the Navi almost seem like a real race, right? My rebuttal to this nonsense is last year’s surprise sci-fi hit District 9.

In District 9, we have yet another film featuring humans interacting with a computer-generated alien species. Instead of the tall, wasp-waisted Navi (yet another Hollywood attempt at increasing eating disorders in young girls) frolicking in a jungle paradise, District 9’s aliens are giant grubby-looking insectoids, affectionately dubbed "Prawns" by their South African benefactors. Both films feature themes regarding the treatment of foreign races and cultures utilizing metaphoric alien races, but District 9 takes the time to explore the relation and exploitation with more attention paid to the complex nature of such situations, with a storyline and character development that doesn’t feel like a black-and-white storybook parable. It garnered rave reviews, also including the realism and believability of its alien creatures, and went on to earn nearly quadruple its
budget during its American theatrical release.

District 9 might not have been a pillar of originality either, arguably being a remake of Alien Nation. But it still treads on far more philosophical and socially relevant ground than sour-milk-drinking populated pun-titled predecessor. Also, while not achieving the extreme ratio of CGI to real world screen time, District 9 managed to achieve the same level of critical and financial success as Avatar, and with a vastly superior screenplay. Its budget: A measly $30 million, less than a tenth of Avatar’s price tag.

So, does Not Bad mean Good? Not really. It doesn’t necessarily mean Bad either, and considering the money it is bringing in, that’s all that matters. Weighing the amazing visuals against the uninspiring script, the only fair assessment is that the film is just your typical Hollywood mega-budget blockbuster; big on spectacle but lacking in substance, no more or less deserving of its box office totals than Transformers 2 or 2012.

But let’s stop making excuses for the obscene amount of money thrown at what is nothing more than another unforgettable weekend blockbuster extravaganza. As much as the Hollywood elite might feel the need to engage in these annual meg-budget pissing contests, special-effect stroke-fests are no substitute for quality filmmaking. And contrary to popular belief, there is a difference.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

When Former Film Stars Get "Real"

One of the taglines for the new upcoming reality show Lawman, which follows Steven Seagal around Jefferson Parish and New Orleans as he works with the Sherrif's Office, is "It's No Act." This is apparently predicated on the notion that people ever considered Seagal an Actor.

Description for the show on A&E also promise the show will feature "musical performances and philanthropic efforts" by Steven Seagal himself. Musical Performances? Oh, how soon we forget the lessons learned from Cop Rock.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blu-Ray Disappointments for November 3

Blu-Ray! The most amazing advancement in home entertainment since HD, DVD, or Laser Discs. Finally, crystal clear images of fantastic cinematic feats of wonder can unfold before us in our own homes, with pictures so startlingly realistic that the viewer almost feels like they are a part of the action!

Unfortunately, its hard to imagine anybody wanting to be a part of the crap they are cranking out on Blu-Ray these days, let alone watch it in a maximum pixel ratio. Just check out these new release available today, November 3, on Blu-Ray...

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Masters of the Universe (film)Image via Wikipedia

Not since Dolph Lundgren's laughable performance as He-Man in Masters of the Universe has a beloved cartoon childhood memory been so thoroughly and repeatedly ritualistically disfigured by a malicious and destructive Hollywood Movie Machine that is still convinced Ginormous CGI Budget + Recognizable 80's Franchise = Box Office Gold. For anybody who grew up watching the G.I. Joe cartoons, seeing this film is the equivalent of finding out as an adult that your beloved puppy Sparky was backed over by Dad's Suburban in the driveway, and not taken away to live on a puppy farm. Now you can relive that kind of crushing disappointment and disillusionment in all of its Blu-Ray clarity.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Who said there are no new ideas out there? Most likely the jackass that convinced the studio heads that this classic 1974 Walter Matthau/Robert Shaw film needed to be updated with John Travolta, Denzel Washington and more car chases. I guess the fact it wasn't retitled as simply "Pelham" is a small conselation.

Crappy animated spin-off of a crappy sequel series does crappy in the box office? Turn it into a crappy cartoon series! Now available in all of its crappy glory on Blu-Ray! Crap.

To be honest, there's nothing wrong with this classic 1971 version of the seasonal Charles Dickens tale of yuletide redemption. What sucks is the fact that the only reason this title is getting a Blu-Ray release is to coincide with the theatrical release of Jim Carrey's latest mega-budget gooftacular.

I can not imagine anything more depressingly sad and pathetic than knowing that someone, somewhere, finds themselves compelled to actually purchase the latest in this series of voyeuristic soft-core pseudo-pornography in high-definition Blu-Ray. There just can't be anything sadder than that.

I stand corrected.

Speaking of sad. The worst thing about seeing a run of Dolf Lundgren's direct to video action films unceremoniously released on Blu-Ray is knowing that the man who once thrilled the nation by beating the snot out of Sylvester Stallone most likely spends most of his time trying unsuccessfully to call his agent and envying Jean-Claude Van Damme.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Moviesucktastic Review: Paranormal Activity

Where the Wild Things Aren't

This past weekend, the sleeper hit Paranormal Activity nearly tripled its weekend totals from its opening weekend, grossing over $20 million in third place. At first place was the long-awaited film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, one of the most popular kid's books ever published, raking in roughly $32 million.

The numbers all seem to be lined up nicely, with the highly anticipated family film beating out the low-budget horror film. But when you look a bit closer at the numbers, things start to get a bit lopsided. Where the Wild Things Are, with a budget of $100 million, made it to the top of the box office while showing in 3,735 theaters. Paranormal Activity came in about $12 million less, but did so in only 760 theaters. When you do the math, the number one film in the country this past weekend earned almost $9000 per theater, while the little thriller that could earned over $26,000 per theater.

In short, a micro-budgeted horror film about a day-trader's haunted girlfriend outsold a nine-figure adaptation of a legendary work of children's literature at a ratio of nearly three-to-one.

Cover of Cover of Where the Wild Things Are

How is this possible? How does a film version of an timeless illustrated classic, beloved and celebrated by multiple generations of young readers, that has spent literally decades trying to desperately make its way to the big screen, get beat out a Blair Witch Project clone that looks like it was shot on a Flip Camera and lit with table lamps? I'll just cut to the chase and give you the answer.

The magic is gone.

In 1977, lines wrapped around theaters and stretched down city blocks as people flocked in droves to witness a futuristic world of galactic empires battling spiritual warriors with laser swords in Star Wars. In 1978, audiences were promised that they would believe a man could fly if the went to see Christopher Reeves star as the Man of Steel in Superman - The Movie. In 1982, young and old alike fell in love with a stray long-necked alien searching for a way back home in E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial.

These were magical films that made the world stand up and take notice. Not because they were the finest works of cinematic art ever created, but because they filled audiences with a sense of wonder as they watched these fantastic events unfold on screen and wondered how creating such amazing illusions was even possible. These days, we know how possible it is. Its so possible that anyone with an impressive line of credit at Best Buy could cook up comparable effects in their own home using the latest software available. And we are reminded how possible it is because every film intended to be a hit by the studios is so jam-packed full of ultra-realistic over-the-top computer generated special effects that we've come to expect flying men and laser-sword-wielding aliens with a casual nod.

This is not a rant against the advancement of technology. Instead, it is a rant against the laziness of filmmakers who are too eager to let the advancement of technology do all the work. CGI and digital effects have become so common place that they have eased to be awe-inspiring, and have instead turned even the most miraculous translations of spectacular fantasy to the big screen into boring, albeit pretty, slide shows.

This film version of Where the Wild Things Are does a remarkable job of bringing the endearing illustrations of Maurice Sendak to life, creating three-dimensional representations of his cherished fifteen-foot-tall creatures that easily convince the viewer that they are living,

Day 288: Paranormal ActivityImage by tsmall via Flickr

breathing creatures from some far-away land.

Filmmakers still approach special effects in films the way they did back in the days of Clash of the Titans. The only difference is, audiences have seen it all, and seen it all done with such ease and repetition that it no longer holds their attention, let alone their amazement or awe.

This might not be completely fair when discussing Where the Wild Things Are; while the faces are CGI, the bodies of these giant creatures are animatronic puppets and suits created by the Jim Henson Workshop, and are still indicative of the true craft of special effects that still exists today. But whether or not it deserves it, Where the Wild Things Are is a victim of commonality of computer graphics and their overuse in films. A movie finally comes along that deserves to be sold out for months as children and adults alike flock to theaters to immerse themselves in the wonderment of a fantasy realm brought to life. Instead, the dreamers are being outnumbered by people so starved for something tangibly real that they are willing to shell out $10 or more to watch poorly-lit couple jump and scream every time a door slams or a large boom is heard off-screen.

We have come full circle. The fantastic is now commonplace, while the mundane is extraordinary and captivating. Maybe it will take these financially difficult times to convince our elite but lazy filmmakers of the truth that many American households have learned to live by.

Sometimes, less is more.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Podacst #2 now live!

Home MoviesImage by Zero1o1 via Flickr

The wait is over!

MovieSucktastic Podcast #2 is up and available for (free) download!

Listen in as the movie guys (Joey and Scott) cover Lost Boys 2 and I Love You, Man while talking about surfing vampires, masturbation humor, incest, horror films, full frontal nudity, romantic comedies, sex with farm equipment and (once again) forced urination. Its the movie podcast that tastes the way it sounds!

So head over to and download our last film-themed rants! While you are there, sign the guest book, check out the streaming videos and film trailers, read our reviews, and drop us an email to let us know what you think!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

January Releases: Legion! Bad movie, armageddon-style!

The trailers have been coming out for some of the bad movies lining up for their spot in the January lineup, where movies go to die. One of these available for advanced screening is Legion.

Legion, the directorial debut of visual effects artist Scott Stewart, feels like an uneasy cross between Pitch Black, Feast, Prophecy, and every other film ever written with the "This woman is the key to the future of Mankind" plot device.

Stewart's visual effects background is clearly evident in the trailer, which makes the film seem like it was written mainly with the special effects in mind, with things like plot and characters just excuses to get to cool scenes of flocks of winged med and Matrix-style slo-mo action sequences.

Yet another example of how CGI is systematically destroying the art of cinema by making feats of onscreen magic less expensive and arduous to create, this trailer screams "We have a HUGE CGI budget, but we can still only afford twelve actors."

Watch, if you dare, and then wait for the coming biblical plague of the Summer of Remakes

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Performed by Bela Lugosi, Edited by S. Michael Wilson

Some of my favorite news updates involve my own work. Yes, it is quite selfish. But there's nothing I love more than sharing my latest projects with people who might enjoy them.

In this case, I wanted to share the cover of my next book, Performed by Lugosi (due out in December), which is going through the final stages with my publishers, Idea Men Productions. This is looking to be the final version. What do you think?

Performed by Lugosi takes a closer look at several of Bela Lugosi's films that were adapted from or inspired by classic works of literature by some of the greatest authors of our time, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not only are the similarities between the stories and films examined, but Lugosi's performances, career, and personal life at the time of the productions is also discussed. This is going to be a great cross over book for people who enjoy classic genre fiction as well as classic cinema.

I'm not going to promote too much more about the book until the release date firms up, but I thought this would be a fun sneak peak. Be sure to let me know what you think.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

My Bloody Valentine in 3D: Questionable Plot Point

Cover of "My Bloody Valentine"Cover of My Bloody Valentine

I just had to express one (of many) of the problems I had with My Bloody Valentine in 3D, not because it makes no sense, but because it almost makes sense.

The initial idea on a bunch of miners being trapped in a tunnel collapse, and then one of them killing all of the others to conserve all of the oxygen for himself, is not wholly far fetched or fantastic. Taking it one step further and having the homicidal survivor mentally snap and run around in full miner's gear killing everyone he comes across with a pick axe is also quite credible. You could even stretch the psychosis of the killer to his fear that every living soul he comes across is yet another threat to his life as long as they are still breathing.

But, just because this traumatic event occurred on Valentin's Day, our demented killer is somehow motivated to cut the hearts out of his victims, place them in heart-shaped candy boxes, and leave behind notes that read "Be Mine 4 Ever?" There's not even any back story involving a bitter love affair or an unfaithful wife leaving him the day of the accident to make this drastic connection between the two events even somewhat plausible.

And just to add frustration to the confusion, why go through the trouble of having him leave notes behind with the clever word play involving Mine, bother to show him using the number 4 instead of spelling it out, then having the tragic event happen in Mine Shaft 5, and not Mine Shaft 4?

It is little things like this that add insult to the injuries left behind by bad movies such as this.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inglorious Basterds Review - Stephen Whitty: Film Critic or Nazi Sympathizer?

The following blog entry is a rebuttal to Stephen Whitty's critical review of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglorious Basterds, which can be read here in its entirety.

Once again, Mr. Whitty, you deliver a review that is obviously a thinly-veiled attempt to justify your personal dislike of a film, for whatever reasons that may be.

While your review isn't studded with the several inaccuracies that sometimes grace them, it does feature one: you state "if [Quentin Tarintino] wanted a Morricone score, he could have actually hired the man to write a new one, rather than using old excerpts from other films." Of course, he did try to hire him to do the score, but a conflict in business schedules forced Morricone to decline.

Beyond that misinformation meant to slander the film maker's intentions, your review simply makes some pretty outlandish accusations. Like insisting that Brad Pitt is allowed to hog the film, when his character is not present for at least half of the movie. Why you would imply that using a big-name actor that manages to turn out a great performance is some kind of tragic mistake on the filmmaker's part is beyond me.

Your argument that Tarintino should have bypassed Pitt for "an actor who might have added just a dash of something -- regret, pain, doubt, madness -- to the sadism" defeats the point of the character. The character of Aldo Raine is indeed sadistic and bloodthirsty. In fact, heroes and villains alike in this film are cold and dispassionate in their violent acts and intentions. Aldo Raine is sadistic, yes. That is we he and his Basterds are the perfect foil to the Nazi Commanders and Soldiers whom we watch dispassionately and even casual discuss the inferiority of Jews and "Negroes". The power of the Basterds is that they are more bloodthirsty than the monsters they hunt. Considering that one of the theme's of the film is both the symbolic and literal act of Fighting Fire with Fire, I would think this would have been more apparent.

You also complain that the movie "is simply an action film" and "is almost insultingly

Cover of Cover via Amazon

unconcerned with the real war." Not being able to look past the entertainment value of Tarantino's work is no excuse for ignoring the thematic structure, and dismissing the film as not having any serious themes because of the historical revisionist ending (because everything in Saving Private Ryan was 100% fact, right?) is rather a simple and dishonest way of deconstructing the film into segments to bash and trivialize, instead of considering the work as a whole and praising it.

Most outrageous, however, is your distaste for Tarantino's "...arrogant -- perhaps even dangerous -- lack of concern with the story's moral dimensions." This honestly leads me to believe that you were not paying attention to the film during your screening, but merely jotting down notes for your pending critical review. Lack of concern for the story's moral dimensions? I hesitate to list scenes that debunk this assertion, as I am afraid there are too many to tackle without the risk of spoiling the film for those who have not yet seen it. I will try one, however; how you could view a scene featuring a Nazi audience joyously watching a war propaganda film glorifying the slaughter of enemy soldiers for national pride, displayed in a film that the real audience has been joylessly cheering similar acts of violence during, and not see the statement the film maker is making about the subjective nature of human morality and how easily the lines can be blurred? Every other scene in this film is layered in revealing displays of morality and how easily the thin veil of humanity can be pulled aside to reveal the true nature of the beast that is man (most probably better than Peckinpah ever managed to do), yet you dismiss the existence of such complexity because Tarantino enjoys mixing scenes of dark humor and stylized violence into the mix.

You claim that Tarantino's stylish touches (like David Bowie appearing in the soundtrack, for

Quentin TarantinoQuentin Tarantino via

heavens sake!) and layered, non-linear style was in danger of being confusing and disorienting. I sat in a packed theater full of moviegoers, and no one looked confused or disoriented. They looked happy and entertained. Yeah, I hate it when that happens, too.

And as for your complaint that "the illiterate spelling [of Basterds] is never really justified..." Do you really need everything explained for you?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

A-List Stars Flailing at the Box Office? Try Again.

It's the bold new declaration being screamed across the Entertainment pages and segments of
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 29:  Actors Denzel Washi...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
the news media today: Highly respected movie stars, usually considered huge box-office draws, are suddenly failing to bring in the big bucks when their highly anticipated films hit the big screen. With films like Funny People, Land of the Lost, Angels and Demons, Public Enemies, and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 not performing as well as expected, the powers that be behind the scene are blaming their current understanding of who the top box-office performers are.

The only problem with this allegation? It is complete and utter crap.

Scapegoating might not be new or unusual in Hollywood, but this is the kind that insults everybody. Did these movies do poorly because of their stars? No, of course not. They did poorly because they were either uninspired remakes or sequels hoping to cash in on a previously existing successful franchise (brace yourself, because that is all you are going to see in theaters come the summer of 2010), or simply didn't inspire people with the subject matter at hand. But this would be admitting that Hollywood was wrong. No, it can't be the fault of the heavy hand of the studios
Mission: Impossible IIIImage via Wikipedia
bankrolling these films. It must be because American audiences have soured on a particular actor or actress, and are now avoiding that star like a former boyfriend at a New Year's Eve party.

This same argument was used against Tom Cruise during the late part of his past slew of releases, and despite how much you don't like Mr. Scientology, it isn't a sound argument. Did audiences really hold back on investing their box-office dollars on Mr. Risky Business because of his unorthodox antics? Of course not! People didn't shun Mission Impossible 3 because the leading star flipped on Oprah Winfrey's couch and reads Dianetics religiously. They shunned it because they were already sick to death of the franchise and listened to the horrible critical response.

You want an example of how much American movie-goers don't actually care about tabloid scandals? Mel Gibson. The Passion of the Christ makes more money than God, but just as Mel's the new favorite golden boy, he gets caught up in a huge antisemitic drunk-driving scandal. In fact, I think it was the first ever combination DUI/Antisemitism
incident ever. That's Mel, always ahead of the curve.

So, Mel not only cruises around under the influence, but he hates the Jews as well. This would be the perfect excuse for audiences to avoid paying to see his upcoming Apocalypto, beyond the fact that it is all subtitles and brown people. But the movie did extremely well, with no apparent boycott of the personality behind the film. Why? Because it was a good movie.

This is the blame game that constantly kills our chances of getting decent films made and delivered by the Hollywood Dream Machine. The latest star-studded blockbuster release had a more than lackluster opening weekend? It couldn't be because the script was drab, boring, or intellectually insulting to a five-year-old with ADD, or that the direction and set design was either over-the-top or uninspired. No, it must be because the lead actress is losing her "Box Office Appeal."

I just caught the trailer for Sandra Bullock's new upcoming romantic comedy, All About Steve:

I would like to make a prediction on this one. This movie will not do well, and when the "lackluster" opening weekend numbers are release, studio heads and those in control of green lighting this kind of crap will not admit that it didn't do well because it is obviously an unsuccessful attempt at some kind of half-ass American stab at a Bridget Jones romantic comedy with a weak premise, recycled jokes (one in the trailer is actually lifted straight from Bridget Jones' Diary), and no real narrative hook.

No they'll blame Sandra Bullock. And they won't even take partially responsibility for attempting to continually shove the aging actress (who seems to have chosen Plastic Surgery over the Aging Gracefully route) into younger and younger roles instead of trying out some fresh new talent.

So fear not, movie-goers. You might get the same recycled crap shoved down your throat at the theater next year, but you can rest assured that there will be new shiny happy faces in those lead roles to make the bitter pill a tad easier to swallow.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Classic Bad Cinema: Dr. Caligari

Café FleshImage via Wikipedia

I still remember this gem from when it hit the video stores while I was still in high school. Written and directed by Stephen Sayadian, who was also responsible for the classic adult features Cafe Flesh and Nightdreams (both under the pseudonym Rinse Dream), this is an ultra-surreal pop sequel (supposedly) to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

In this new wave followup, the descendant of the original Dr. Caligari (Madeleine Reynal in her only starring role) is a sex-obsessed psychiatrist whose controversial experiments invloving electroshock treatment and hypothalamus injections is concerning her fellow physicians. There really isn't much else to say about the film; most of it is intentionally and blissfully inexplicable. A bizarre cross betwen Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Behind the Green Door, it's hard to attempt calling this a bad film. On the contrary, it is more possible that this film does exactly what Sayadian intended it to. And if you figure out what that is, be sure to let me know.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad Movie Night Video Review of Tron and Tron Legacy

Tron (film)Image via Wikipedia

For those faithful readers of This Movie Sucks, you'll be glad to know that we are currently undertaking some major changes that will hopefully expand our constantly growing audience by at least seventeen people! While it would be a shame to tip our hand too soon, we'd like to share one of our latest media tests, as it were.

Some of you might remember S. Michael Wilson's past stab at video blog entries. With that past experiment in mind, please take a look at our latest attempt at breaking the fourth wall by filming a video introduction for our outdoor screening of Tron at last weeks Bad Movie Night. Production values might still seem a tad rough, but just think of any substabdard filming as a tribute to Roger Corman. Squinting never hurts, either.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bad Movie DVD Releases for August 4

Brace yourself, folks! New DVDs are on the way! If you thought that bad movies were restricted to '60s science fiction, '70s martial arts, and '80s teen comedies, then get ready for the awful reality, that there is always a new bad movie just around the corner! Check out what cinematic atrocities are hitting the shelves this week:

Race to Witch Mountain - Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, and Alexander Ludwig.

Every six months, a Disney executive wonders aloud "I wonder what classic slice of cinema in our film vaults we haven't bent over a table and anally raped with a huge CGI budget yet?" This past summer, the answer came back Escape to Witch Mountain, which they changed to Race, I'm assuming because Escape didn't test well. The lesson learned? The Rock is not a suitable

Cover of "Big Trouble in Little China (Sp...Cover via Amazon

replacement for Jason O'Day, no matter what the predicament.

Obsessed - starring Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, and Jerry O'Connell.

In 1987, Michael Douglas lived every Professional White Male's ultimate fear; a business-trip one-night-stand coming back to haunt him. Now, twenty years later, Beyonce (which I am assuming is simply French for Bouncy) lives the fear of every Professional Black Male's Wife; white women. If Spike Lee had directed Disclosure, it might have looked something like this.

Big Trouble in Little China - starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, and James Hong.

The ultimate guilty pleasure of every schlock movie fanatic, and arguably the Kim Cattrall's only decent contribution to cinema, finally hits Blu-ray! As Jack Burton would say, "Son of a bitch must pay."

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season Three

The fact that these two untalented tools somehow managed to not only get their own television show, but now have DVD box sets of that show, is further proof to me that we live in a godless void of a universe, devoid of justice or goodness on any spiritual level.

Cover of Cover of Mimic

Mutant Chronicles - starring Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, and John Malkovich

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This film had its theatrical release bumped, and premiered on the SyFy channel. 'Nuff said.

Blade II - starring Danny John-Jules, Thomas Kretschmann, Ron Perlman, and Wesley Snipes.

Crappy sequel #6,723 gets the Blu-ray treatment. Utilizing several crappy sequel cliches, including Kriss Kristofferson in the ever popular role of "Hey, didn't you die in the first film?"

Mimic - starring F. Murray Abraham, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, and Alix Koromzay.

More often than not, Josh Brolin's name in the cast role is not a good sign for movie-viewers. Combine a Josh Brolin role with giant killer cockroaches that disguise themselves as trench coat-wearing subway commuters? You're gonna lose. Guillermo del Toro's direction (his ever-present generation gap duo) make this film watchable, but that's as far as I'll go.

There's more, but we should probably stop there. Don't worry, there will be plenty more next week.

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